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The Politics of the Garrafón de Agua in Mexico

Published April 10, 2022 in Mexico - 0 Comments

I saw this here today on Facebook.

When I lived in Iowa, I never had to buy a "garrafon de agua."

Here in Mexico, I do.

And I could also give you some random stories about buying the "garrafon de agua" but I'm not going to because they're not that exciting.

I already have a story related to them that you can find here.

Anyway, I realized this could be an issue for some new gringos to Mexico or broader Latin America so I'm going to keep this article short and give some quick points you should know (even though that means it'll be less likely to be found on Google).

First, know that you aren't renting out the garrafon as the question above asks.

You are buying it.

No, they aren't going to hunt you down and demand you give it back after buying it.

And, to be honest, I never tried returning it.

Could you get your money back if you returned it empty?

I doubt it because I never heard of anyone doing that but who knows. Try your luck and surprise me.

Second, here in Mexico, you can usually expect the garrafon itself to cost around 40 to 50 pesos as of this writing in 2022.

Third, know that plenty of places -- more informal corners stores run by normal people -- won't sell you a garrafon.

For them, at least where I live in Pedregal de Santo Domingo, will insist that you bring your own empty garrafon to replace with one that they have which is full of water.

For those who wish to buy their own garrafon, I've found both OXXO and 7-11 can help you out.

Fourth, as I wrote here, you got "the agua man" in some neighborhoods.

If you wish to replace your garrafon, this is the best person to replace it with. Better than your local corner shop.

While a few out of a hundred might try to fuck with you on the price when realizing you are a foreigner, most won't because you only really find these folks riding around in non-touristy areas where the amount of gringos is next to none and the locals aren't as accustomed to ripping off foreigners when compared to touristy areas.

Still, for the vast majority who won't rip you off, the price buying from them is half or less than half compared to the price at the local corner shop (meaning a dollar to replace it with them versus two dollars or more at the corner shop).

Fifth, at least in Mexico City, know that most neighborhoods that I have lived in (all of them minus the one where I live now) don't have any "agua men" riding around offering water.

From what I have seen, some have the number of the water company of the garrafon you got and they get them to stop by to replace it.

I have no experience with that nor do I know the price they sell at. If I had to guess, it's probably more expensive than the more informal "agua men" out there but I wouldn't know from experience. Just a guess.

Anyway, that's all I got to say on this topic. As I said, I'm not stretching this topic out because any story I have is nothing more than "I bought a garrafon here, I replaced one over there, etc."

So thanks for reading.

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Best regards,


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